HC Deb 24 February 1986 vol 92 cc668-9
35. Mr. Campbell-Savours

asked the Attorney-General what steps he has taken to ensure that, in future, advice from the Law Officers remains confidential.

The Attorney-General (Sir Michael Havers)

As I informed the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) in a written answer on 13 January, I am satisfied that the arrangements in my Department are adequate and that other Departments are aware of their duty to maintain the confidentiality of any advice which the Law Officers may give them.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is it not fair to say that, in standing before the House and answering the questions of my right hon. and hon. Friends about confidentiality, the Attorney-General is showing that he is accountable to the House of Commons? Why should that accountability not extend to addressing members of the Select Committee, which is examining these matters? Should they not be treated in the same way? What is the distinction?

Sir Michael Havers

It is a well-accepted convention because the usual work of the Law Officers is to give advice, and that advice would not be required by a Select Committee.

Mr. Stokes

Will my right hon. and learned Friend remember that the question is, I think, asked not out of devotion to the British constitution but to stir up trouble, and that these things are far better left to the old conventions on which we have managed our affairs for many centuries?

Sir Michael Havers

I agree with my hon. Friend. As I have said before, the House should think very carefully before it tries to alter that convention.

Mr. John Morris

Was anybody in the Attorney-General's Department consulted about the possibility of the letter to be written by the Solicitor-General being put into the public domain? When the leak inquiry was set up, did the right hon. and learned Gentleman have reason to believe that it might have been an official leak?

Sir Michael Havers

The answer to the first part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's questions is no. As for the second, there was no communication at all save for my communication with the secretary to the Cabinet.

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